Hotel on Khao San Road (if you must):
Better Location to Stay:
Sukhumvit Soi 11
I am Too Old for Khao San Road
Let me preface this post by saying that I had no intention of spending any time in Bangkok. (Judge away, but it was just not a place that peaked my interest. I am just not really a city girl.) Sure, I was going to use the capital as a hub for a lot of my flights, but I didn’t originally plan to spend more than a few hours there at a time. Thus, I didn’t do any research about the best places to stay or where to avoid. However, after having my GoPro stolen in Cambodia, I had to make an overnight stop in Bangkok so that I could replace it before I started my scuba diving adventures. Not wanting to put much effort into looking for accommodation, I made the mistake of booking a hotel on Khao San Road.
I, like most of you, have read (and/or seen) The Beach, so I had naturally heard about the backpacker zone, Khao San Road. I assumed it would be packed with stalls selling food, cheap screen print tshirts and children hawking homemade bracelets. Of course there would be a lot of people, because it was the most popular tourist area in the city. My assumptions were correct, but amplified 10X.
Khao San Road is a walking street, technically, but cabs and tuk tuks seem to ignore this fact and drive up and down the street trying to rip off unsuspecting tourists. Do not, I repeat, do NOT hail a cab or hire a tuk tuk on this street. Walk 3 blocks away, and then get a cab, but only if the driver agree to turn on the meter. I learned this the hard way. But I digress.
After getting dropped off at the head of the street, we were overwhelmed with vendors pushing everything you could possibly imagine from your typical clothing and jewelry to fried scorpions and laughing gas. These are not your typical street vendors either. These people are pushy, and will not take no for an answer. The best way to avoid purchasing a bunch of shit that you don’t need or want is to avoid eye contact and walk with purpose. Look like you know where you are going, even if you don’t have a destination in mind.
Our hotel was located directly in the center of the chaos, and had all the amenities that one would expect from a mid-range hotel in a big city, plus a pool on the roof, which was the deciding factor when choosing this property. If you simply must stay on Khao San Road to satisfy a crazy bucket list item, stay at the Rikka Inn. There is a 7Eleven, a Illy Coffee Shop and a custom suit shop in the building. In theory, you would never even have to venture outside onto Khao San Road.
After checking into the hotel, we decided we needed a drink to handle the craziness around us. We stopped at a bar that was busy, assuming that it was going to be reasonably priced since there were so many people there. False. Because prices were not listed on the menu, we ordered a bucket of Gin and Tonic to split between the two of us. It cost us 500 baht. We could have ordered 3 buckets in Chiang Mai for that price. Well, at least we learned quickly not to order anything without checking the price. Not that knowing the prices made them any less ridiculous. Avoid drinking on Khao San Road if possible. Three streets away, the prices are reduced by half or more.
Because we opted to stay in a hotel over a hostel, we hadn’t had an opportunity to make friends with anyone in Bangkok. Thus, I sent my resident extrovert, Chris, to talk to a group of friendly looking Norwegian girls at the bar. We proceeded to spend the rest of the night drinking and making plans to visit Norway, while spending entirely too much money on drinks and trying to avoid being pulled into a ping pong show or a ladyboy cabaret.
The next day, we needed to get away from the chaos, so we decided to visit the Grand Palace, which didn’t exactly accomplish that goal. The palace was beautiful, but there were more tourists in this spot than we have seen anywhere else in Asia. I suppose if you went earlier in the morning, it might have been less crowded, but I would suggest just skipping it entirely unless you feel that it is essential to complete your trip to Bangkok.
After the Grand Palace, we grabbed a cab to head to the MBK Mall so that I could buy a replacement GoPro. This mall is insane. I have never before or since seen anything like it. First of all, it’s NINE stories. Secondly, it isn’t composed of traditional stores. It is essentially an indoor street market, if that makes sense at all. Instead of traditional storefronts, there are small stalls selling street food, electronics, clothing and anything else you could possibly want. The camera store I went to was one of 3 different camera stores in the mall. It was just madness, but at least it helped me accomplish the sole goal I had when arriving in Bangkok.
Not wanting to spend any more money, I retreated back to our hotel after buying snacks at 7Eleven and read until I fell asleep. God, I am a grandma. Oh well. At least now I know I am not cut out for Khao San Road.
Have you been to Khao San Road? Did you enjoy the craziness or were you overwhelmed by the chaos? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below!